Often, established businesses have inefficient processes that result from their history and culture, particularly when those processes extend globally. In helping the world’s largest certified membership organisation to improve its examination and marking processes, we helped transform the business, make it fit for the digital age and reduced overheads.
Conducting a thorough diagnosis of the current situation, including conversations with every level of stakeholder and some judicious fact-finding, we recognised that a major obstacle was in a stereotypical view of examiners. Our discovery workshops uncovered that this prejudice was unfounded and, instead of opposition, we found the examiners open to change.
Once all stakeholders were aligned, we took the whole marking process online by automating every stage. With the need to process huge amounts of data quickly and efficiently, we developed a four-part system covering candidate distribution and management, PDF script viewer, adjudication app and a feedback app.
Modernising the qualification process
It’s all too easy to think the stress of exams resides solely at the desk of the students, nervously turning over their papers. But for the Institution of Structural Engineers, the stresses of the whole examination process went much deeper.
As the world’s largest certified membership organisation – numbering almost 30,000 – the Institute has for over 100 years offered a range of qualifications, all of which require an exam to be sat in hundreds of locations across the world. The qualifications are a valuable source of income, one which they were looking to maximise, yet one which was costing the Institute far too much to run.
Confronting a lengthy process
The problem was, the Institute was wrestling with a paper marking process which had remained unchanged for decades. They’d always done it that way, but cracks were beginning to show.
An entirely manual and physical event, this process involved collecting completed A3 exam papers by hand, placing them into boxes of 500, shipping to the UK, anonymising, splitting out into tranches of 20 and posting to individual examiners who, making life more difficult, are not always UK-based. Also requiring the marks of a second examiner, the whole process then had to be repeated. So far, so lengthy.
Recognising the need for change
Faced with such a problematic process – papers went missing, handwriting wasn’t always legible and disparate marks required the extra involvement of a third-party adjudicator. The Institute knew it was time for a change.
The financial benefits of doing so were compelling. There was the desire to avoid the spiralling costs of global postage. Then there was the need to shorten the process from its current nine months to fit in more revenue-earning exams (students were having to wait a full 12 months before being able to re-sit). Owning such an outdated process also reflected poorly on the Institute’s brand.